Florida’s 2018 Legislative Session came to a close on March 11, ending one of the most intense sessions in recent memory. While the debate was often contentious, lawmakers advanced many forward-thinking, student-centered bills that expand educational opportunity and prepare students for lifelong success.
Highlighted below are several bills that will improve the lives and educational outcomes of Florida students. From expanding computer science opportunities to providing education savings accounts for struggling readers to restoring equity in dual enrollment access, students were the real winners this session.
2018 Legislative Recap
Giving Bullied Students Hope
Students who have been bullied or harassed now have the opportunity to move to a safer public or private school through the Hope Scholarship program. According to the Florida Department of Education, more than 47,000 of Florida’s public school students reported being battered, bullied, harassed, assaulted or attacked during the 2015-16 school year.
Helping Struggling Readers
More than 19,000 families will have access to a Reading Scholarship Account program for their students in grade 3-5 who are struggling readers. The program, which is the first of its kind in the country, allows participating families to be reimbursed up to $500 for expenses related to reading instruction/tutoring in addition to what they receive in public school. The program will give priority to English learners.
Expanding Computer Science Education
Florida’s public middle and high school students will have greater access to computer science education through legislation designed to expand course offerings that prepare them for success in college and career.
Providing Access to a Customized Education
2,300 students with special needs will be able to participate in the Gardiner Scholarship program next school year thanks to a $25 million increase in the legislature’s proposed budget.
House Bill 7055 also opens an additional funding source for the 2019-20 school year for the Gardiner Scholarship Program, which empowers parents of students with special needs with the resources to customize their child’s education.
Strengthening Florida’s Charter Schools
In the legislature’s approved budget, lawmakers directed more than $145.2 million in capital outlay funding for Florida’s public charter schools, which serve more than 280,000 students.
This funding significantly increases the state’s commitment to public charter schools. Along with an increase in capital outlay funding, legislators also strengthened autonomy for public charter schools.
Restoring Equity in Dual Enrollment Access
All Florida students will soon have free, open access to dual enrollment courses at their local state colleges, saving families millions of dollars in college tuition. Legislative changes made in 2012 and 2014, negatively impacted private school students and their ability to access dual enrollment courses.
Empowering Great Principals
Created in 2016, the Principal Autonomy Program Initiative gives highly effective public school principals the flexibility to turn around low-performing schools and improve academic outcomes for students. Legislation passed this year opens the program to all interested districts and creates district innovative academies and zones where highly-effective principals can manage multiple schools.